Wes Anderson – the quirky auteur of eight major motion pictures – has made films that have ranged from cult classics to commercial successes. Beginning with Bottle Rocket – his first foray into the world of major motion pictures to the Academy Award-winning The Grand Budapest Hotel, Anderson has continued to develop his style and astound audiences.
Anderson’s distinct style, storytelling, set design and keen taste for music (about half of Anderson’s films feature original scores by Mark Mothersbaugh of DEVO) bring even more life to his already lush landscapes and backdrops. Much like other iconic filmmakers, including Woody Allen and Quentin Tarantino, Anderson has a revolving group of favorite actors like Luke and Owen Wilson, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman and Anjelica Huston that populate Anderson’s idiosyncratic worlds.
In honor of Zoetropolis Theatre’s “Mini Wes-Fest” – a retrospective of the films of Wes Anderson screening every Monday through July 27 during the Lancaster Summer Arts Festival – we took a look at Wes Anderson’s eight excellent full-length films (and though there could be an argument made for each film to be our favorite), we rank them from our eighth favorite to our number one favorite.
8) Bottle Rocket (1996)
Anderson and his University of Texas friend Owen Wilson wrote a short film called Bottle Rocket, which was well received at Sundance and drew attention from James L. Brooks’ production company and Columbia Pictures. Anderson and Wilson expanded on the bumbling crime caper story and scored James Caan to play Mr. Henry. The movie was a commercial failure, but Bottle Rocket later found an audience as a cult classic.
7) The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
Anderson trots out three of his favorite actors (Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman and Adrien Brody) as brothers on a spiritual trip through India via train where they search for Nirvana and, also, their mother (Anjelica Huston). Like most Anderson films, it’s both funny and tragic. The exotic Indian location provides some exquisitely colorful sets. Also “This Time Tomorrow” by The Kinks is a great song.
6) Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Moonrise Kingdom is a touching tale of two troubled youths that runaway into the wilderness of the fictional island of New Penzance in New England. Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman), who is AWOL from the Khaki Scouts and Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward), who has a taste for stolen literature and a quick temper, find love and adventure as they escape from the boredom of their everyday lives. Bill Murray, who plays Suzy’s father, delivers the line of the movie when he says, “Our daughter has been abducted by one of these beige lunatics!”
5) Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Many people call George Clooney a fox, but here he actually plays one, as the voice of Fantastic Mr. Fox. Here, Anderson combines stop-motion animation to bring to life the beloved Roald Dahl children’s novel of the same name. Anderson gives us the best cussing movie about thievery, broken family values and embracing your inner fox.
4) The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
It’s like a Jaques Cousteau documentary with weed and acoustic David Bowie covers. Bill Murray stars as Steve Zissou – the oceanographer/documentary filmmaker looking to avenge the death of his partner by finding the dreaded Jaguar Shark and kill it (possibly using explosives). The film features an excellent soundtrack and a pair of Adidas that we need to track down and add to our sneaker collection.
3) The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
The Tenenbaums are a dysfunctional New York family full of failed childhood prodigies. The star-studded film includes Gene Hackman as Royal Tenenbaum – the half-charismatic, half-jerk estranged father of the family – Angelica Huston, Bill Murray, Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Danny Glover, Anderson’s favorite brothers, Luke and Owen Wilson, and Alec Baldwin as the voice of the Narrator. This is the quintessential Wes Anderson film.
2) The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
It’s easy to see why The Grand Budapest Hotel won four Academy Awards earlier this year (and was nominated for Best Picture). The film’s lush set design, detailed imagery and musical score created a fantasy world that you could get lost inside of. The story set between the First and Second World Wars centers on Grand Budapest Hotel’s concierge, Gustave H., and Zero, the lobby boy, with the action following their escapades and adventures.
1) Rushmore (1998)
Rushmore may be Anderson’s most autobiographical film. Co-written by Owen Wilson, Anderson and Wilson drew on their shared experiences at prep schools in Texas. Besides being the beginning of an extremely fruitful partnership between Anderson and Bill Murray, Rushmore was the film debut of Jason Schwartzman who plays Max Fischer – a precocious 15-year old playwright and student at Rushmore Academy. Max falls in love with an elementary school teacher and soon finds himself competing with local businessman Herman Blume (Bill Murray) for her attention. The line of the movie comes when Fischer inquires what Luke Wilson’s character is wearing at a dinner and Wilson’s character answers, “O.R. scrubs,” to which Schwartzman’s character retorts, “Oh, are they?” Classic.
Zoetropolis in Lancaster screens Rushmore tonight at 7 p.m. Admission is free. Check out the full schedule of Zoetropolis’ “Mini Wes-Fest.”